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Resource wars: Communities take a stand against new quarries


The community has been given a glimmer of hope, with the state government indicating it will consider options to save the site.

Victoria has a growing need for resources such as rock and sand used to build infrastructure projects, and minerals that can be exported for sale.

But plans to extract these resources often encounter a fierce community backlash amid concerns that digging huge holes will damage the environment and create excessive noise and dust.

Holden opened the Lang Lang site in 1957 to road-test cars for safety and handling.

It declined to provide details about the sale, saying it was “commercial-in-confidence”.

“The decision to sell the Lang Lang site was taken along with that to wind down Holden new vehicle sales announced on February 17 this year,” a company spokesman said.

Holden's Lang Lang testing ground is up for sale. The local community is fighting to preserve forest within the 800-hectare site.

Holden’s Lang Lang testing ground is up for sale. The local community is fighting to preserve forest within the 800-hectare site. Credit:Simon Schluter

On Wednesday night, Bass Coast Shire Council requested an urgent meeting with the state government to discuss options for protecting the site, which is currently zoned for farming.

The Department of Environment wrote to Bass Coast residents this week saying it was exploring all its options to protect the land.

“The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning will work with Parks Victoria and Bass Coast Shire Council to discuss options and investigate possible acquisition and protection measures,” the letter said.

Save the Holden Bushlands spokesman Tim O’Brien said the site was full of marsupials and threatened species, including the swamp skink. “Those swampy areas support wildlife from micro-organisms all the way to kangaroos and wallabies,” he said.

Mr O'Brien (centre) with (from left) community members Michael Whelan (Bass Coast Shire councillor), Meryl Tobin, Moragh Mackay, Lauren Burns and Gerard Drew.

Mr O’Brien (centre) with (from left) community members Michael Whelan (Bass Coast Shire councillor), Meryl Tobin, Moragh Mackay, Lauren Burns and Gerard Drew.Credit:Simon Schluter

He urged the state government to invest in recycled materials such as crushed glass and concrete, rather than extracting resources from the ground.

“Just digging a hole is an easy and lazy response,” he said.

Bass Coast Shire chief executive Ali Wastie said the council wanted the state government to introduce a planning scheme amendment to prevent environmental damage to the land.

“Given the loss of habitat in Victoria and the vast losses of wildlife and habitat along the length of the east coast, the 2000 acres [810 hectares] of coastal forest covering this Lang Lang site makes it too valuable to the broader environment to remain unprotected,” she said.

A spokesman for the state government said it had received “approaches” about the site that would be “considered in due course”.

The state government insists it needs eight tonnes of quarry material per person every year to support Victoria’s development and infrastructure projects.

Across the state, there are 858 quarries with approval to operate. In 2018-19, there were 539 active sites quarrying rock, sand and gravel.

In the past two financial years, 15 quarries have been approved.


Resources Minister Jaclyn Symes said sand, gravel and stone produced in Victoria would lay the foundations for the post-pandemic recovery.

“Local supply of quarry materials means we reduce transport costs and truck movements as we build the schools, roads, hospitals and rail that will keep people in jobs and the state moving ahead,” she said. “While we’re backing the industry and jobs, we understand that the amenity of local communities is a fundamental issue and we’ll continue to provide meaningful input for residents in approval processes.”

Construction Material Processors Association general manager Elizabeth Gibson said existing quarries were limited in their capacity to expand but the need for materials remained strong.

She said encroachment of residential properties near quarry boundaries was a problem but insisted measures were in place to reduce the impact on residents and repair sites when finished.

“Rehabilitation is written in at the very start of a quarry application,” Dr Gibson said.

At Glenaladale in East Gippsland, plans for a mineral sand mine have sparked an uproar among residents. Resources company Kalbar Operations is due to complete an environmental effects statement as it pushes ahead with plans to mine zircon, rutile, ilmenite and rare-earth minerals for export.

The project, which needs approval, is set to cover 1675 hectares, with about 1100 hectares to be mined.

The company says the project, known as Fingerboards Mineral Sands Mine, will create 200 jobs in construction and the same number of ongoing positions. Kalbar chief executive Jozsef Patarica insisted it would improve the environment.

“We would revegetate and restore the land,” he said.

But Mine-Free Glenaladale spokeswoman Debbie Curruthers disputes the company’s environmental claims, arguing the project will churn up toxic dust and contaminate the Mitchell River.

She said nearby vegetable growers would be particularly vulnerable.

“There is a very real risk of destroying the clean, green image of our produce,” she said. “The risk of contamination to our vegetable crops and soil from toxic dust, plus having to compete for the same water, could potentially devastate our businesses.”

At Panmure, in Victoria’s south-west, a proposed bluestone quarry on a 70-hectare site has also prompted protest from the community.

Janelle McLeod, who runs an earthmoving business with her husband, is working to establish the quarry she hopes will produce bluestone to build local roads.

“The material is needed. There’s no other bluestone material within a 50-kilometre radius,” she said.

But one of the leading opponents, Geoff Rollinson, said the proposed quarry was in a culturally sensitive area and natural springs that provided water for wildlife and cattle would be severely damaged by the quarry’s operations.

“When these springs dry up due to quarry activities such as dust suppression it may cause severe environmental damage, including as a water source to the nearby Hopkins River,” Mr Rollinson said.

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